Captain America star Chris Evans has come under fire for failing to focus on Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) voices in his new project, Influence and Power in the Middle East. The six-part series centering around U.S. foreign policy and military involvement in the region was created by Evans’ civic media organization, A Starting Point. It is set to air on August 30.
Evans co-created A Starting Point (ASP) in 2020 alongside actor and filmmaker Mark Kassen and technology entrepreneur Joe Kiani. As a “video-based civic engagement platform,” ASP cites its mission as creating a bipartisan channel of communication between Americans and their elected officials. The organization recently announced its new project, the Influence and Power in the Middle East series, which will focus on the generations of people in the region impacted by decades of war and instability. The series will feature figures from the American government, including former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Former Saudi Arabia Ambassador Joseph Westphal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and many others. It will also be hosted by former CIA operative and Texas Congressman, Will Hurd.
As reported by Decider, however, soon after the announcement of the show’s details, the project drew heavy criticism on social media. Many users voiced their concerns about the lack of MENA figures set to appear in the series, given that the project claims to focus on the effects of U.S. policy on people in the Middle East and North Africa regions. People took to Twitter to call the series’ seemingly poor MENA representation “grotesque,” among other criticisms.
Users also decried Evans and the other ASP creators for what they felt to be an ignorant and one-sided project that favors representation of the U.S. government. Many were particularly critical of the fact that American officials seem to be among the majority of those given the opportunity to recount the recent history of the Middle East in the series. Neither Evans nor ASP are yet to comment on the response.
The concerns voiced by critics are, of course, understandable. There is a well-trodden path of western filmmakers who have been unsuccessful in properly representing minority communities, usually resulting from a lack of representation in the filmmaking team itself. As ASP’s first project of this size, the pressure on Evans and his team to deliver a sensitive, representative series with Influence and Power in the Middle East has now been increased amid the current backlash. The series will air exclusively on the A Starting Point website on August 30.